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Game 5 Preview: Islanders-Lightning

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

LIGHTNING LEAD SERIES: 3-1

3 P.M., AMALIE ARENA, NBC 

FOUR THINGS

1. DO OR DIE:

Down 3-1 in the series, the New York Islanders are in a must-win situation Sunday, 

Their backs are against the wall and they are facing elimination, but the Islanders have their sights set on a comeback. The objective is three straight wins, starting in Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. 

“We have a lot of confidence in this group,” Ryan Strome said. “Obviously our backs are against the wall, you can’t deny that, but we’re pretty resilient, we’ve been through some ups and downs this year, individually and as a team. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll have our best game of the year next game.”

2. CAPITALIZE EARLY:


The Islanders were the more aggressive team out of the gate in both Games 3 and 4, outshooting the Lightning heavily in the opening period of each game. They were able to get on the board first in each contest, but an inability to pad the lead proved costly. 

Bearing down on their first period chances could be the difference in Game 5. They scored three goals in the first period of Game 1, a buffer that helped them withstand a relentless Lightning attack in the third period. Tampa's third period has often been their best in this series.

“It doesn’t matter how you get it done,” John Tavares said. “It’s a fine line, so even if the breaks aren’t going our way, we have to find ways to make them, make plays and capitalize and obviously seal the deal when the opportunity is there.”

3. RYAN PULOCK BACK IN LINEUP:

Ryan Pulock returned to the Islanders’ lineup on Friday after missing five games with an upper-body injury. Pulock tested the radar gun with his shot in the first period, but the rookie defenseman turned some heads with his skating, leading a pair of rushes up the ice, looking to create chances a la Nick Leddy. 

Pulock had a goal and two assists in four games against the Florida Panthers in the first round. Armed with a 105 mph slap shot, Pulock saw time on the Islanders’ second power-play unit on Friday. 

4. CONTAIN KUCHEROV:



Nikita Kucherov has been a force for the Lightning, leading the postseason with eight goals, including three in four games against the Islanders. The 22-year-old Russian has filled the scoring void left by Steven Stamkos’ injury, notching the tying goals in the third periods of Games 3 and 4. His quickness and hockey sense make him a tough player to guard despite his modest size (5'11, 178lbs.), but he’s a lightning bolt that needs to be bottled in Game 5. 

“He’s a great player and he finds those little holes,” Ryan Strome said. “You can’t cover him all the time, he takes advantage with a nice little quick shot there. We have to be aware of him, we know that.” 

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